Magazine article Newsweek

Taking the Longer Road

Magazine article Newsweek

Taking the Longer Road

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Dokoupil

More students than ever are interrupting their college educations to earn tuition money.

Kyle Maguire wanted to attend the University of Nebraska as soon as he graduated from high school in 2005. An aspiring Web developer, he liked the computer-science program and, as an in-state kid, the football-crazy campus fit him perfectly. But the cost--more than $6,000 a year--did not. The solution? Clock-punching as a cashier at Amigos--a local Taco Bell-style chain, where over the past three years Maguire has built up enough seniority to qualify for the restaurant's tuition-reimbursement program. When he wanted to transfer to Nebraska from a nearby community college in 2007, his kickback from Amigos made it easier, cutting his tuition nearly in half. "It's a big deal," says the 22-year-old, who keeps the coffers full by working a few shifts a week as an assistant manager. "It helps keep my student loans low while still living decently."

With money tight and tuition hikes a perennial concern, Kyle's "work now, school later" approach is increasingly common. While their boom-time siblings may have used a "gap year" to twirl through Europe or volunteer on an organic farm, many of today's degree-deferring coeds are taking a more practical approach--using a stint in the real world to earn tuition money between high school and college, or enrolling in a five-year college program that lets them take time off to work. More than a fifth of 2009 high-school graduates plan to use a working gap year to save cash for school, according to Next Step Magazine and the admissions counseling company Applywise. Another 8 percent said they planned to join the Army--which is still among the biggest providers of college funding in America--to help fund their education. Five percent now plan to defer indefinitely. …

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